Sunday we began our Financial Stewardship Emphasis for 2014. The past few years in the life of Christ Presbyterian Church have been financially blessed. In the midst of one of the hardest economic times our country has experienced, Christ Presbyterian was sustained by the financial stewardship of our membership. I am quite sure that many of our members were not “secure” in their personal financial realities. The sequester and downsizing of previous years affected many and even those not personally effected still feel the anxiety. Nevertheless, Christ Presbyterian Church was blessed in this uncertain time.
Perhaps one of the testaments to the health and vitality of Christ Presbyterian Church is the fact that our financial stewardship didn’t suffer like others. I believe that this is due to a few underlying beliefs that are shared by the members and friends of Christ Presbyterian Church. Spiritual maturity and trust in God’s provisions have created an atmosphere of positive giving.
It is a powerful testimony to our congregational health and vitality that over the past few years we have done very little talking about the “brass tacks” of our financials during our stewardship emphasis. There are some who may like to see more of this discussion take place but I believe that the approach we have taken has led to a very different understanding of stewardship. As Bill Gilchrist pointed out this past Sunday, we aren’t doing a PBS pledge drive. We could put up a budget and ask you to cover it. That may be even be a bit less anxiety ridden of a process. For us to say, “Here is what we need, give it” might work for some. Over time, I have developed a much larger sense of what it means to be a steward. The church isn’t about goods and services. We aren’t in the game of even exchange.
Rather, we believe that our giving is in response to a gift that we cannot repay. In fact we take it an even deeper theological commitment. Our giving is returning to God what is already God’s. Too often we think of our giving as a financial transition or purchase. At Christ Presbyterian Church I believe that we have fostered an understanding of giving that is a reflection of our faith. We give because we have received and we give as testimony to that belief. I used to worry when folks would talk about personal giving being a sign of spiritual maturity. After all, I’m not sure I even know what that means, but perhaps stewardship does gives us a window into what spiritual maturity is all about.
Financial stewardship is a real and even physical way for us to enact our belief in what God has done. To trust in the providence and provision of God in our lives allows us to loosen our grip on what we have. Being spiritually mature means that we are becoming more Christ-like. I think it is sufficient to say that Christ was not one to hold onto things, but instead was generous. Robert Schnase reminds us that, “Generosity describes the Christian’s unselfish willingness to give in order to make a positive difference for the purpose of Christ.” He also advocates for us to aspire towards Extravagant Generosity. “Extravagant Generosity describes practices of sharing and giving that exceed all expectations and extend to unexpected measures.”
I believe that Christ Presbyterian Church is blessed with a spirit of Extravagant Generosity. Extravagance doesn’t give with an attitude of compulsion or duty. To be extravagant, givers don’t find giving to be burdensome, but rather find life in the practice of giving. “Extravagance denotes a style and attitude of giving that is unexpectedly joyous, without predetermined limits, from the heart, overt-the-top, extraordinary, and propelled by great passion.” Schnase says it beautifully and meaningfully in the following manner:
“Extravagant Generosity is giving to God as God has given to us.”
Over the next few weeks I hope and pray that you will consider your financial stewardship in light of the goodness, mercy and blessing God has placed in your life.
- How do you practice Extravagant Generosity in your life?